I recently took my first cruise on the new Disney Dream, a 4,000-passenger ship from Port Canaveral, Fla., to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private 100-acre island in the Bahamas. The three-day voyage covered approximately 300 nautical miles — but the Disney experience made me feel far away from day-to-day life.
What sets the Dream, the Disney Cruise Line’s third ship, apart is its grandeur. With 14 decks, the ship — which is whimsically outfitted in Mickey Mouse colors with a royal blue hull, red funnels and yellow lifeboats — features 1,250 staterooms, a full-service spa, a movie theater, a performing arts theater, three pools, six restaurants, seven youth clubs, a nine-hole miniature golf course and an area called the District, an adults-only entertainment area with four lounges and a nightclub. To top it all off, there’s even a 14-foot-tall Sorcerer Mickey casting a spell on the ship’s stern.
From the Bay Area, Virgin America offers a daily, nonstop flight from San Francisco International Airport to Orlando International Airport. I arrived a day before the cruise, and spent the night at the Grand Polynesian, one of several Disney World hotels in Orlando.
From the hotel, Dream passengers can hop on the Magical Express, a bus that will transport you from Disney World to Port Canaveral, where the Dream is docked; the bus ride is approximately 75 minutes long.
At the terminal, you’ll check in and go through airport-style security before entering the terminal to board.
As soon as you step on board, you’ll feel like a VIP. Uniformed staff will ask for your party’s name, and as you enter the art-deco-style lobby, your name will be announced over a public-address system as crew members applaud your arrival.
Don’t worry about not getting enough exercise on board. With 14 decks, the ship — which measures 1,115 feet in length and 125 feet wide — offers many opportunities for walking. Finding my room — an elevator ride and a walk down very long hallway lined with beautiful sketches of Disney princesses — took almost 20 minutes from the main lobby.
Staterooms vary — from an 1,800-square-foot royal suite or for one of the inner staterooms with 24-inch-wide “virtual” portholes. Most rooms are face the ocean, and more than 70 percent of them have private verandas.
Luggage, which is checked in at the terminal before boarding, is delivered directly to your stateroom. However, you may arrive there before your bags do; apparently, this is normal. The ship suggests you pack a swimsuit in your carry-on in case your luggage doesn’t arrive at your cabin in time for the sail-away party.
Disney, for kids
For little kids, visit the Oceaneer Club — a play area that includes a replica of Andy’s room from “Toy Story”; Monster’s Academy, which is fashioned after the scare floor in “Monsters, Inc.”; and Pixie Hollow, where kids can dress up in their favorite Disney character costumes, make crafts and participate in storytelling.
For kids 11 to 13 years old, the ship has a tween club called Edge, which features individual computer stations, access to an onboard social media application, a video-gaming wall, a dance floor with multicolored lighting and a port-hole viewing of the AquaDuck water coaster.
For teens ages 14 to 17, there is Vibe, a teen club that has a media room as its central gathering space and a perimeter with built-in, individual wall pods in which teens can watch programs from personal video screens or play video games.
And for the very young — 3 months to 3 years old, there is the It’s A Small World Nursery, a service that requires advance reservations and is available at an additional charge.
Princesses and characters Cinderella, Tinkerbell, Lilo and Snow White, to name a few, meet kids one-on-one with hugs and sweet words in the ship’s atrium.
Upon debarkation, the ship’s horn erupted with a bass serenade of favorite Disney tunes.
All around the ship, there is “enchanted art.” How it works: If you stop and wave your hands in front of it, the pieces come to life; pirate ships battle each other, blue birds flit through frames and even Walt Disney comes to life as he draws Steamboat Willie, an early version of Mickey Mouse.
In between courses at Animator’s Palate — a 700-seat restaurant designed to look like an artist’s workshop — more than 100 LCD screens transform the restaurant into the world of “Finding Nemo,” during which Crush the sea turtle greets passengers by name in a real-time exchange.
Not to be missed on the top deck (No. 13) is Goofy’s sports deck, which has a nine-hole miniature golf course, two digital sports simulators, a full basketball court that can be configured into a mini-soccer pitch or volleyball court, ping pong and foosball tables, and a walking track.
— Kathleen Jay
Nonstop flight from San Francisco to Orlando, Fla.
Starting at $149, one-way
Virgin America is offering direct service between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Orlando International Airport (MCO). The daily flights depart SFO at 9:55 a.m. and arrive at MCO at 6:20 p.m. The return flight departs MCO at 4:55 p.m. and arrives at SFO at 7:40 p.m. Lowest fares can be found midweek. For more information, visit www.virginamerica.com.
A five-night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream
Starting at $5,560, for two adults and one child
In June — when kids are getting out of school — the Disney Dream is offering five-night cruises. For a family of three, a deluxe oceanview stateroom with a veranda runs $5,560 — which breaks down to $2,249 per adult and $929 for youth. Cruise fare includes shipboard accommodations, all meals, unlimited soft drinks, entertainment, character experiences and select onboard activities. For more information, visit disneycruise.disney.go.com/ships-activities/ships/dream.
— Kathleen Jay
Acres of Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas 100
Crew members on the Disney Dream 1,458
Countries represented by crew members 52
Beds on the Disney Dream 5,007